Mumbai: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had in 2016 banned the sale of food items wrapped in newspaper sheets as the ink could contaminate the eatables, leading to serious health complications. “Older people, teenagers, children and people with compromised vital organs and immune systems are at a greater risk of acquiring cancer-related health complications, if they are exposed to food packed in such materials," according to an advisory issued by the Food Safety and Standards Administration of India in 2016. But it is learnt that not a single case has been recorded by FDA Mumbai against any food vendor for violating the circular in the past three years.

FDA officials said they had organised several awareness programmes among street vendors to educate them on the perils of wrapping edible food in newspaper. However, “Till now, we have not received any complaints from people about food being wrapped in newspaper. But if we receive any complaint, action will be taken against the street vendors,” said a senior offiicial from the FDA's food department. The FSSAI advisory cautioned, “Newspapers are widely used as absorbent paper in small hotels, by vendors, and in homes. But the printing ink contains multiple bioactive materials (including harmful colours, pigments, binders, additives and preservatives) which can cause negative health effects. Newspapers should not be used to wrap food or absorb excess oil from fried food. There is an urgent need to discourage the use of newspaper as food packaging material by creating awareness amongst businesses, especially in the unorganised sector.”

FSSAI officials said consumers are unaware that the food wrapped in newspaper can cause severe health problems, as it contains heavy metals. “We had conducted a study which showed that food wrapped in newspaper has the presence of heavy metals in it. The study was done in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Packaging (IIP), Mumbai, and the National Test House (NTH), Kolkata. As many as 380 food samples were collected from the unorganised sector and 13.4 per cent of the foods were found contaminated,” said FSSAI official.

- Swapnil Mishra